Iran Slams US Propaganda Effort

A05083057.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- US officials must end the practice of pointing to Iranian interference every time the Washington strategy for Iraq falters, Iranian officials said Tuesday.

Iran’s Ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi Qomi lashed out at reports from top US commanders that Tehran was interfering in negotiations between Washington and Baghdad over the long-term security arrangement set to replace the expiring UN mandate for Iraq.

“Whenever (Washington) faces a new challenge or deadlock in carrying out its plans in Iraq, like what is happening now in case of the deadlock over the security agreement with the Iraqi officials, it resorts to its failed policy of scapegoating others,” he said.

The envoy pointed to an Oct. 2 report in The Washington Post that said the Defense Department had paid private contractors in Iraq $300 million to put out news stories in the media to “engage and inspire” the Iraqi population as nothing more than a smear tactic against the Islamic Republic.

His statements come as Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to review a final draft of the security arrangement as skepticism mounts over the deal.

The US is in talks with Iraqi officials to get them to sign a provocative security agreement which secures long-term US presence in Iraq.

It also gives the occupation forces a free rein to stage military operations wherever and whenever they deem necessary, without consulting the Iraqi government.

The controversial agreement has drawn criticism from many Iraqi officials, lawyers, religious and political figures across the country.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered religious leader in Iraq, has also rejected the security agreement with the US, saying such a deal will undermine the country’s sovereignty.

Many fear Washington has plans to keep permanent bases, despite a denial of any such plan written into the proposal. Iraqis say the drafts submitted by the Americans thus far would infringe on Iraq’s sovereignty by giving US forces too much freedom to operate.

The security pact also faces strong criticism from members of al-Maliki’s own coalition. Two Iraqi officials familiar with the negotiations have warned that a deal is unlikely to be reached before the end of President Bush’s term in January unless Washington backs off some demands seen as giving American forces too much freedom to operate in Iraq and infringing on Iraqi sovereignty.

Iraq’s parliament must approve the deal, and the two officials said opposition in the legislature was so widespread that it stood no chance of winning approval without significant changes in the US position. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy surrounding the negotiations.

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